There was much illumination at the CHL Top Prospects Game last week, even if only some of the best players were in attendance. Scouts will tell you that a good showing helps more than a bad showing hurts, so with an eye on the game and other prospects everywhere, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Liam Liston, G – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
All-star games and any gathering of the elite tend to be death for goaltenders, no matter how skilled. But Liston and Owen Sound’s Jordan Binnington were both excellent at the Top Prospects Game, with the Brandon netminder pitching a shutout in his half. So where will he go in the summer? Since he’s a goaltender, it’s anyone’s guess.
“It’s a position NHL teams look at a little differently and you see that in the way they draft guys,” Liston said. “It’s really about potential. You’re not getting judged on your play, but what you’re capable of.”
And Liston is definitely capable in net. He looked very positionally sound in Toronto and the Wheat Kings netminder prides himself on the attributes he holds on and off the ice.
“For me, I think my lateral quickness is really good right now,” Liston said. “And intangibles – I think I’m a leader in the room and that’s not something you see very often from a 17-year-old goaltender, but I’m comfortable stepping up when something needs to be said.”
This season, the Wheaties have needed it. The 2010 Memorial Cup hosts lost talents such as Matt Calvert, Colby Robak and Toni Rajala over the summer, plus Brayden Schenn in a recent trade.
“You never want to go into a season thinking we’re going to have a bad year, but obviously we lost a couple of key players,” Liston said. “But we’re building for the future and our organization is looking forward to it.” Draft eligible in 2011.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
What a night for ‘The Nuge’ to make a statement. Much as he did in the summer at the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp, RNH showed off a bevy of offensive skills, putting on his full display of creativity, sick hands and superhero vision. Now the talk about his frame is pulling in names like Patrick Kane, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman in their teen years. Draft eligible in 2011.
Dmitri Jaskin, RW – Slavia Praha (Cze.)
The Czechs could have used Jaskin at the world juniors, but he was felled by a knee injury. Scouts still love the Russian-born Czech, however. Projected as a power forward, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound right winger is strong, competitive and knows how to use his frame to his advantage. Draft eligible in 2011.
Adam Clendening, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
The Terriers have a lot of fab freshmen this season and Clendening has lived up to his billing as the new Kevin Shattenkirk, puckmoving his way to two goals and 14 points in 24 games. That puts him second on the team among blueliners and his plus-5 rating is one of the better marks, too. Draft eligible in 2011.
Matt Puempel, LW – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
A high-end offensive talent, Puempel showed off his skills in Toronto by winning the shooting accuracy competition and then displaying a nice array of moves and creativity in the game itself. On top of that, the solidly built winger threw some nice checks at the prospects game, proving he’s more than a one-trick pony. He’s on pace for another season of 30-plus goals. Draft eligible in 2011.
Nathan Beaulieu, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
The Top Prospects Game was dominated by Dogs, with Beaulieu, Jonathan Huberdeau and Zack Phillips all putting up points for Team Orr, while Tomas Jurco dazzled in the skills competition for Team Cherry. Beaulieu once again showed why he could be a great pro blueliner, matching physical play with great offensive instincts. Draft eligible in 2011.
Victor Rask, C – Leksand Stars (Swe.)
Despite playing on a low-scoring squad, Rask has been heating up lately with two points in his past four games and even got a crack at the shootout. Scouts love his size (nearly 6-foot-2, 194 pounds) and his hands, so don’t be surprised to see him go high this summer. Draft eligible in 2011.
Vladimir Dolnik, LW – Banska Bystrica (Svk. U18)
Dolnik is pretty much doing everything for Banska, a struggling squad in the Slovakian under-18 league. The 6-foot-2, 187-pounder leads the team in points with 35 in 24 games, but he also has a plus-19 rating on a squad that has been heavily outscored this season. Excellent on the power play, Dolnik leads Banska with three game-winning goals and is third with 65 penalty minutes. Draft eligible in 2011.
Stuart Percy, D – Mississauga-St. Mike’s Majors (OHL)
Percy won’t wow you with offensive charm (he is a Major, after all), but the finer aspects of his defensive game are alluring. The mid-sized blueliner seems to make all the right decisions out on the ice and projects to be a safe, reliable pro. His 21 points in 40 games are decent numbers, too. Draft eligible in 2011.
Reece Scarlett, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Like Percy, Scarlett used the Top Prospects Game to prove that flash isn’t necessary to be a big-time player. The Broncos blueliner looked solid in Toronto, playing a responsible game in a venue that doesn’t necessarily favor the rearguards. Back in the Dub, his minus-27 is pretty tough to swallow, but Swift Current is the third lowest-scoring team in the league. Draft eligible in 2011.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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